CIOs' Cloud Strategy Must Include Public Cloud Services

For all the apprehension they may bring, public clouds demand a position in the enterprise IT strategy. CIO.com columnist Bernard Golden explains how CIOs and business leaders can make their peace with the public cloud, and how it's not incompatible with the much-revered private cloud.

By Bernard Golden
Thu, April 26, 2012

CIO — Over the past year, I've noticed a significant shift in my conversations about cloud with senior IT managers.

A year ago, when discussing an organization's cloud strategy, I heard a consistent theme that "our focus is on creating a private cloud." Sometimes stated, sometimes unstated or sometimes said under an executive's breath was the objective of curtailing developer use of public cloud computing. The target of that objective most commonly was Amazon Web Services.

I always felt that the characterization that attributed the "public cloud problem" to rogue developers was misplaced. It is true that many developers embraced Amazon Web Services for its easy resource availability and low cost -- a.k.a. its "agility." However, to presume that the issue is caused by individuals offered (or coerced into using) a private cloud is to fundamentally misunderstand the phenomenon of "shadow IT," as it is sometimes pejoratively called.

Don't Blame the Developers

Something much more profound than developer experimentation is behind the wholesale adoption of public cloud computing. While developers have flocked to Amazon Web Services and its counterparts, generally speaking, they are not doing it without organizational support. Most developers are embedded within groups that answer to business units, and these groups are responsible for ensuring that the business side of the house has the applications they need to support their objectives.

The real dynamic of public cloud adoption isn't headstrong software engineers covertly conducting shadow IT on their own time. The real dynamic is the endorsement and sponsorship of software engineers' use of a public cloud on the part of the application group, for whom those engineers work. And this makes sense, doesn't it?

A developer can easily run up a bill of $500 per month using Amazon Web Services -- do you think he or she is going to absorb that cost just because using that public cloud service makes development more efficient? Of course not. Those fees are reimbursed by their organization, if they're not paid directly. In other words, the executives within those organizations know and approve of developers using public clouds.

Business Has Its Head in the (Public) Cloud

The fundamental truth underlying the explosive growth of public cloud computing is that it is fueled by development decisions driven by the sponsoring business units. Business units are under pressure to produce financial results, and, as the saying goes, time is money.

Compared to the traditional provisioning lifecycle, public cloud computing dramatically reduces resource availability timeframes. Given this dramatic contrast, business units have received green light to authorize their developers to use public cloud computing.

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